State Representative Bryce Edgmon introduced a bill last week that would allow Village Public Safety Officers across the state to carry firearms. KYUK’s Mark Arehart has more.
Since the program began in the 1970’s, VPSOs have often been the only permanent law enforcement presence in many rural Alaskan communities.
But, they have never been able to carry firearms. House Bill 199 would change that.
Edgemon said it would allow VPSOs to carry firearms will better equip them to protect their communities and “have the ability to protect themselves in instances of harms way.”
Last month a VPSO in Manakotak was fatally shot in the line of duty, stirring up debate across the state.
The Association of Village Council Presidents runs the VPSO program in the YK Delta.
“Why do we send our VPSOs into a situation that can result in death like in this incident down in Manakotak and send him in there without any firearms?” said AVCP President Myron Naneng.
Naneng said out of the 27 VPSOs in the YK Delta over half were in support of carrying firearms. Though several others were undecided, he said.
Representative Edgemon said the bill wouldn’t just put guns in VPSOs hands right out of the gate.
“Nobody is suggesting VPSOs should be allowed to carry firearms without the proper training. And we wrote that into the bill. And that’s part two of the bill, that we want our VPSOs to be properly trained as well,” he said.
Edgemon said he has gotten bipartisan favor in Juneau. “Instantly, without really much effort, a lot of support has cropped up here in the capitol. And I think, looking at my emails, there has only been support from across the state. It has generated lots of responses.”
The bill will not be voted up or down this year as the session is close to ending, Edgemon said.
There may be public hearings held this winter to discuss the issue.